The European Union is ready to talk to Britain on a future free trade deal before the two sides agree to final terms on Brexit, draft EU negotiating guidelines show.
EU Council President Donald Tusk circulated the guidelines to 27 European governments on Friday.
As part of a "phased approach," Britain would just have to show "sufficient progress" on its divorce settlement in a first phase of negotiations, then EU states could release the lock and agree to launch trade talks in a second phase.
But that concession to British Prime Minister Theresa May two days after she triggered a two-year countdown to withdrawal was accompanied by elements in the draft that May might find less palatable.
They include an insistence that during a transition period likely to follow Britain's departure in 2019, and before a free trade pact can be finalised, the British must accept EU rules, including budget contributions and judicial oversight.
If Britain remains a part of the EU single market for a time after Brexit, it would also have to respect all "four freedoms," which would mean accepting open immigration from the continent.
Tusk said talks between the EU and the UK will be difficult.
"The talks which are about to start will be difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational. There is no way around it." he said.
"Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as suggested by some in the UK, will not be happen."
Tusk said he would meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London before an April 29 summit in Brussels.
Tusk was speaking alongside Maltese President Joseph Muscat earlier on Friday in Valletta, Malta.